Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Road Warrior on the Hill Battles for Bridges and Highways Rep. Bud Shuster Wants More Money for Roads and Airports. but Does It Bust the Budget?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Road Warrior on the Hill Battles for Bridges and Highways Rep. Bud Shuster Wants More Money for Roads and Airports. but Does It Bust the Budget?

Article excerpt

Almost everything about Rep. Bud Shuster says "transportation." The old Pennsylvania Railroad, now enshrined on Monopoly Boards, snaked through his Allegheny Mountain district. The four-lane Bud Shuster Highway links Altoona, Pa., with the Pennsylvania Turnpike - a 53-mile reminder of federal dollars he has turned into tarmac.

On display in his Washington office is the seat belt that saved his life in a 1982 auto accident. There's also the pen President Bush used to sign the 1991 highway-funding bill.

Mr. Shuster, in short, is one of the nation's chief road warriors for transportation. He is an unrelenting champion of putting more money into roads, bridges, and cloverleafs - and not just in his own district. Now, however, his zeal for spending on infrastructure has brought him into conflict with the White House and his own Republican leadership - and offers a major test of political sentiment on the Hill in an era of improving federal finances. "We're not talking about Bosnia and we're not talking about who sleeps in the Lincoln bedroom," says the Pennsylvania Republican. "We're talking about what affects the daily lives of virtually every American from the time they get up in the morning." Shuster is causing problems with both his style and substance. As the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, he is pushing a sweeping bill that would spend more on roads, bridges, and airports nationwide than called for in the just-signed federal budget agreement. The representative has also been known to put transportation considerations above partisan politics or party loyalty - a trait that sometimes annoys GOP leaders. House leaders knew they had a problem this summer, as soon as Shuster began moving his bill. "Bud uses the analogy, 'I'm like an elephant, I just keep leaning,' "says House majority leader Dick Armey of Texas. "And he is leaning." Confrontation with the GOP leadership over rewriting the 1991 Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) has only stiffened Shuster's spine. "The evidence is absolutely overwhelming that while America is growing and prospering, our infrastructure is crumbling," he says. Among the numbers he cites are Department of Transportation (DOT) findings that, just to maintain current infrastructure, the nation needs to spend $16 billion more each year on highways, $13 billion on mass transit, and $10 billion on aviation than it does now. He points to Illinois, which has seen a 3 percent population increase in the past 10 years, while vehicle-miles traveled has grown 33 percent. Of the 42,000 highway fatalities each year, DOT estimates that up to 30 percent are caused by unsafe roads and bridges. As a result, Shuster insists the nation can afford to spend more on highways and transit, using surplus revenues the new budget deal is expected to produce. But President Clinton and congressional Republican leaders stand by the budget deal. You can't spend revenue projections, says majority leader Armey. Opinions of Shuster vary, but everyone agrees his word carries weight. …

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